Bob Spiers, RIP

Monday, December 8, 2008 by

Bob Spiers: 1945-2008

Bob Spiers: 1945-2008

Owing to the sheer volume and quality of his work as a director and a producer, Bob Spiers was one of those people that you always pictured as being a lot older than they actually were. In a career that spanned four decades, he came in on one of the greats – Dad’s Army – and continued to produce popular and top rated shows throughout.

Having Bob Spiers on board was almost a guarantee of a hit show, with his credits ranging from the massively popular likes of Fawlty Towers, French & Saunders and Absolutely Fabulous (which, it’s easy to forget, all began as relatively small-scale shows on BBC2), to cult favourites like Joking Apart, A Bit of Fry and Laurie and Murder Most Horrid, to virtually forgotten but much-loved obscurities such as Lazarus & Dingwall and Up Line.

Flops were incredibly rare for Spiers, and that small amount of failures which did have his name attached to them – notably Agony Again and Days Like These – were almost invariably projects that were a bad idea to begin with and which he was rumoured to have been parachuted in to in the desperate hope of salvaging something out of them.

More than just a skilled producer, he also had the invaulable talent of being able to take a firm line with performers, production team members and TV executives alike – acting as middleman during what was arguably the most turbulent time for The Goodies; ensuring the early editions of The Comic Strip Presents… had their pretentions kept in check and that filmic ambitions or a bizarre Dawn French script about Iron Age rituals were always lined up behind the humour rather than being allowed to overshadow it; and perhaps most significantly of all, proving the faith that had been placed in untried writer Steven Moffat wasn’t misplaced, and translating his early scripts for Press Gang into one of the most memorable series of all time.

Similarly, one of his rare excursions onto the big screen, Spiceworld, could have ended up just another flimsy run of the mill cash-in effort designed to capitalise on the fleeting popularity of the latest pop sensation. Under his guidance, it became a lively and likeable production which ended up one of those rarest of pop music films – one that people actually remember – and in no small way may even have added to The Spice Girls’ staying power.

No doubt there’ll be plenty of articles over the next couple of days running something like: “You probably didn’t know the name, but he probably made you laugh hundreds of times”. This is of course true, but in light of recent stark reminders that strong talents need equally strong producers to harness them, perhaps his name should be known and celebrated just that little bit more.


One Response to “Bob Spiers, RIP”

  1. Jack Kibble-White on December 9th, 2008 10:16 pm

    Well done and thanks TJ for two excellently written tributes